Client Case #1: What’s Going On In There?


Scoliosis is a tragedy for most that must suffer and be condemned to believe that braces and surgery are the answer. Often this misconception lies in the belief that physical manifestations, S-Curved or C-Curved Spines are “problems” that must be physically manipulated in place, all together avoiding the idea that there may be something that set it there in the first place. I am not saying that one shouldn’t eventually use these if needed, but like surgery they should be one of the final options, not the first.

And this is the new Terminator Model

The question one must ask, is why is the body doing that (curving and rotating the spine) in the first place, and why do we perceive it as a problem if there’s no pain (alarm signal) telling us to do anything about it.

Saying it’s a problem is the same as trying to do something about a big head. If you have a big head so what? There may be a reason why you have it, there may not be. The main concern is whether it is a problem or not and if we should do something about it.

If your head looked like this, it's not that bad right?

All these questions were brought up by one of my clients who was concerned about her scoliosis and if it presented a problem in her olympic weightlifting.

First, let’s go into what Scoliosis is and how it affects your spine.

The Spine

The Spine, otherwise known as the long thing in the middle that keeps you upright (it isn’t actually on your back, you silly person you), is made up of 24 pieces of bone that sort of stack on each other like layers of brick. You have hard things, and also more flexible, light things that help keep them from directly rubbing together. The hard things are known as Vertebrae and the flexible, light things are known as Intervertebral Disks (or Disks for short).

It's kinda like a crusted sponge cake, with spikes...

The Spine, specifically the vertebrae have a hole sorta in the middle so the nerves (long things similar to cable wires that make you do whatever you want) can run through and spread them all over your body. Without them you wouldn’t be able to touch you nose and pat your head at the same time…:-).

Can you hear me now? Over here?

Anyway our spine has specific curves its supposed to have that looks like a somewhat fancy C from the side. I’m just weird so it might not look like a C to you, don’t worry about it.


Scoliosis is actually a fancy way of saying, your curves are wrong, and because I think you’re curves are wrong and they don’t fit the average person, I need to fix you.

*(There are actually 4 major patterns, which I won’t discuss in this article – you can learn them if you want, but it’s not pertinent for this discussion).

Well I’m also short, and I don’t fit the average height, but again you don’t see me needing to get leg correction surgery to make me taller…although a little bit of height sounds nice.

Of course because of these wrong curves weird funky stuff happens. Typically, one side tends to be more rotated than the other, one shoulder is higher than the other, some muscles are tighter, some muscles are looser, of course this all depends.

Give me an S!

Structural and Functional: Does it matter?

Sorta, to date there are specifically two types of Scoliosis: Structural, which actually causes uneven growth of the hard things (vertebrae); and functional, which is from muscle imbalances.

To find out which one you are if you have it, touch you toes. If your body has an outward curve when standing, but when you bend forward it goes away, you are functional. If the curve stays when you bend forward, it’s structural, easy right?

Make sure you grab that soap...Fast

80% of almost all structural scoliosis cases are supposedly Idiopathic, although newest studies are showing something different.

What? There’s a problem with my Ear?

Your ear is a wonderful thing. It picks up sound waves, so your brain can interpret them and then you can hear, but it also picks up movement in your head (to help keep you balanced; the Vestibular system is the balance system) due to a bunch of thick liquidy stuff (the liquidy stuff is different depending on what movement it’s picking up). If you for some reason interpret the signal from the thick liquidy stuff in a different way than you should be, you have some major issues that are recipes to creating scoliosis. Many of the studies illustrate that the curvatures actually go in the direction of the vestibular weakness, cool huh?

Yup, that's in your inner's not blue though, I think?

Although you have a vestibular weakness, because of the neural hierarchy in your body 1) Vision, 2) Vestibular 3) Proprioception, your head will stay “neutral” and not tilted, but your body has to compensate for your balance system (Vestibular system) constantly thinking you are lopsided.

Think about it this way:

Your tire alignment is out on your car pretty badly. Yes you can move straight, but it takes a lot of effort on your part to use your arm power to turn the wheel to make sure the car continues to go straight. The vestibular system functions the same way. The vestibular system is the one out of alignment and the arm power is your muscular system putting effort to keep you from running in circles. Since the body is smart, it decides to stop putting effort and just winds the body up in a way that makes it easy for it to keep you straight.

So, there’s another way to fix it besides surgery and braces?

Yes, as you can see, if the Vestibular system is out of wack then the body will constantly have to keep reshaping itself to make sure you are okay. You need to first make sure your Vestibular system is okay, before even attempting anything as dire as surgery. It’s like constantly replacing the tires (the bones), but never fixing the alignment (the vestibular system) itself.

Look to someone that does Vestibular assessments: ear and throat doctor, neurologists who specializes in various diagnostic approaches to vestibular disorders, an eye doctor and/or neuro-ophthalmologists to ensure that there may not be a defect in the eye and brain connection that is worsening your vision, thus causing balance problems.

Another person to look towards is a Z-Health specialist who can hit you with a number of different assessments to determine if there’s higher order stuff or to actually check if that’s the best thing to deal with currently.

***Since I’m a level 4 Z-Specialist, I’ll talk about how I’m currently helping this client from being in pain during and after her Olympic Weightlifting and actually being quite slow to say at the Snatch and Clean & Jerk, to being pain-free and lifting safer and faster than ever before.

In this next part (don’t worry it’ll be shorter), we’ll cover some of the stuff that I did to help get her moving pain free again. Stay tuned.

***By the way, just in case you are interested in some of the research, I have posted it here

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4 Responses to “Client Case #1: What’s Going On In There?”

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I don’t understand one thing– though I may have missed it somewhere– why should the vestibular apparatus be weak in a given individual?
Unless there is neuritis or some structural damage, in a normal person, why should that come into the picture of any physical limitation of the musculo-skeletal system?? Thanks.

Not sure, if I’m understanding your question right, hopefully I do and explain my answer correctly with what I have in mind.

You don’t necessarily have to have any nerve damage, or damage in general to have a weakness in your vestibular function. Most physical limitations (not genetic): coordination, muscle weakness, inflexibility; are normally a result of a signal to brain error somewhere down the line. In this case it so happens that for some reason vestibular based signaling is flawed somewhere giving rise in the need for the body to create muscular/fascia based compensations to restore the body to a somewhat efficient energy consumption based on the problem. Instead of looking at the muscles and fascia, we have to see why the muscles and fascia MAY have twisted into that shape in the first place.

We could stretch and strengthen the typical remedy besides surgery and braces. But, why don’t we just ask – why is it set that way? Why does the muscles and skeletal system feel the need to wind up in such a manner? What was the short-term stuff that created the long-term changes? What did he/she practice to make her body feel the need to wind up? Is there something else that is driving the compensations?

Understanding the body compensates for survival is the key.

A lot of the musculo skeletal stuff is based on the neural stuff. What’s specifically happening on a nervous level to effect the muscular and skeletal level. Short-term needs are met through the nervous. Endocrine system stuff changes any of those short-term needs to help create long-term structural changes in the muscular and skeletal level. Again this is rather simplistic for explanation sake, but the goal is to find out why something happened and the many reasons for it.

Instead of linear thinking (this causes that), I like to think of it as circular reasoning (well if this caused that, what caused that to happen, to make this and that this – man what a tongue twister). In Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, it’s also called allostatic versus homeostatic equilibrium, looking not at how one specific body function causes things to occur, but finding multiple reasons for finding why say internal temperature changed in the body during exercise.

“80% of almost all structural scoliosis cases are supposedly Idiopathic, although newest studies are showing something different.”

It would be very helpful to readers if you could post the citations to these studies.

Sam, No problem

Am posting them as I’m typing this up. Will be up later tonight.

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